Being a writer – part 11 – beta readers

An important part of self-publishing is review and feedback. You want your book to be as good as it can possibly be, so you need a beta reader.

First, a quick update:

This is now the third week in a row with no new writing but I have completed draft 2 of my new project – “Am I really A Secret Alien Spy?” I’ve worked on the cover design and been through the story thoroughly and checked for any inconsistencies and changes that I wanted to make. This is a vital process for me as it’s now ready to send to my editor and beta reader.

Back to this week’s topic – what is a beta reader?

Put simply, a beta reader is someone who is going to read your manuscript before it gets published. They can be anyone – family or friend – and the idea is, they read your book and essentially give you feedback on whether they liked it or not. Hopefully the feedback will be specific enough to tell you where and why they didn’t like it, thus giving you the opportunity to change the story before publication.

Best practice is to give your story to beta readers before giving it to an editor – especially if you’re paying for an editor – as they will often spot plot holes and inconsistencies which you can fix first.

What’s the right number of beta-readers?

This depends. You can get by with just one, if your book isn’t too complicated. You might need two or three. Too many beta-readers is going to cause confusion as each one will likely have a slightly different opinion. Also, coordinating all the readers can be time consuming.

Who’s the right person to beta-read my book?

Friends and family are an easy place to start, but will they give you honest feedback to help you improve your book? If not, there are many places on the internet and facebook to find impartial beta-readers, or join a writing club.

Consider giving your book to people who read your genre and who don’t read your genre. People familiar with your genre will be able to compare to other stories in that genre, but equally people outside your genre will be able to give you a more balanced view.

What information do I want from a beta-reader?

Consider your book for a few minutes. What do you want the reader to feel about your characters? The places? The plot?

Are there any specific passages you’re not sure if they move too quickly/too slowly? What do they like/dislike about the story? Are there any inconsistencies – not just in movement, but also in characters behaviours?

It’s a good idea to have several questions for your beta-readers before they get their hands on the book.

What else?

Setting a deadline is always a good idea. It helps to set expectations.

Don’t be disheartened if you receive negative feedback. That feedback is designed to make your book better.

You don’t have to change something just because a beta-reader has suggested it. It’s still your book and if that scene is vital in your opinion then leave it in.

So, with some good feedback from some reliable beta-readers, your book should be ready to be self-published. Contact us about all your self-publishing needs.

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